Quantcast

Food Imports from China Under Scrutiny for Fraud and Lack of Inspection

Health + Wellness

The Cornucopia Institute

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats gathered information yesterday regarding concerns being raised about imports of food from China that are entering the U.S.

"We don't trust, for good reason, the Chinese to supply ingredients for our dog and cat food," said hearing witness Mark A. Kastel, senior farm policy analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. "Why should we trust Chinese exporters for the food that we are feeding our children and families?"

Kastel added that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are only inspecting one to two percent of all the food that enters U.S. ports. And even with this small sample size, Kastel noted that a "disproportionate number of serious problems" are being found with Chinese exports, including "unapproved chemicals, dyes, pesticides and outright fraud (fake food)."

The Cornucopia Institute, based in Wisconsin, has been acting as an organic food and agriculture industry watchdog for the past decade. The farm policy group has been critical of fraud occurring with imports of organic commodities and finished products entering the U.S.

In February 2011, the USDA's National Organic Program began informing the public of fraudulent organic certificates—the paperwork required for the formal sale of organic foods. Since then, the USDA has announced 22 fraudulent organic certificates, with nine of these from China.

"Because of the restricted nature of doing business in China, U.S. certifiers are unable to independently inspect farms and assure compliance to the USDA organic food and agriculture standards that are required for export to the U.S.," Kastel told the Congressional Subcommitttee.

"These imports should not be allowed to reach our shore until and unless we have a system in place to assure consumers they are getting what they pay for. Just like U.S. grown organic commodities, the safety of these products must be rigorously overseen by independent inspectors," Kastel said.

Patty Lovera, the assistant director of Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch also appeared before the House subcommittee. "The U.S. imports over a billion pounds of [organic and conventional] fruits and vegetables from China every year and over a billion pounds of fish and seafood," Lovera said. "And for some products, like apple juice and garlic, China has replaced domestic production of crops that have traditionally been grown here."

In 2009, Food & Water Watch produced the report, A Decade of Dangerous Food Imports from China, assessing the extent of lax inspections and breadth of scandals surrounding food imports from China that have been linked to human illnesses from eating the unsafe food.

As Lovera noted, food fraud is occurring "despite very public efforts by the Chinese government to crack down on food safety problems." The news from China, she observed, "is a steady stream of controversies ranging from adulteration with counterfeit ingredients like melamine in dairy products, to widespread outbreaks of animal diseases like avian flu and high levels of pesticide residues. Just last week, news reports described a Chinese government campaign to break up a fake meat operation, leading to arrests of more than 900 people accused of passing off more than $1 million of rat meat as mutton."

Subcommittee chair Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) also voiced criticisms of Chinese regulatory controls, saying "it is beyond their ability to do a good job ... the record of Chinese food plant facilities is extremely poor."

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), who said he buys organic food himself, expressed his concerns about mislabeling and referred to it as "Orwellian." Rep. Stockman mentioned that "the safety of imported food is something the media should really be spotlighting."

In addition to discussing food, the House Subcommittee also focused on fake, counterfeit drugs coming from China.

After the hearing, Kastel said that The Cornucopia Institute welcomes the increased scrutiny of how the USDA and FDA are assuring U.S. citizens that foreign organic imports are commensurate with U.S.-produced food.

"I hope that Congress will pressure our federal agencies to ensure that they do their job. And if they need additional resources to protect us from fraudulent and unsafe food imports, then I hope Congress will provide the necessary resources to get the job done," said Kastel.

Visit EcoWatch’s FOOD page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) speaks during the North American Building Trades Unions Conference at the Washington Hilton April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Read More Show Less
Foto-Rabe / Pixabay

When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.

Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A crate carrying one of the 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Columbia is lifted onto the back of a lorry before being transported to a private reserve on April 30, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

Read More Show Less
A tornado Monday in Union City, Oklahoma. TicToc by Bloomberg / YouTube screenshot

Extreme weather spawned 18 tornadoes across five states Monday, USA Today reported. Tornadoes were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, but were not as dangerous as forecasters had initially feared, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
A woman walks in front of her water-logged home in Sriwulan village, Sayung sub-district of Demak regency, Central Java, Indonesia on Feb. 2, 2018. Siswono Toyudho / Anadolu Agency /Getty Images

A new study has more than doubled the worst-case-scenario projection for sea level rise by the end of the century, BBC News reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images

The Guardian is changing the way it writes about environmental issues.

Read More Show Less
Blueberry yogurt bark. SEE D JAN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Having nutritious snacks to eat during the workday can help you stay energized and productive.

Read More Show Less
A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

Read More Show Less